FARC Announce Possible Release of Five Hostages

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) said Wednesday that they may free five hostages, including three members of the security forces and two councilmen.

The FARC announced their intentions in a letter dedicated to former Senator Piedad Cordoba, published on the rebel-friendly site Anncol. The hostage release is a gesture of support for Cordoba, the letter says. Cordoba, one of the most vocal advocates in Colombia for peace negotiations, was banned from office in September due to alleged ties with the FARC.

Similarly to the other major hostage releases this year, including the release of their longest-held hostage in March, this looks like an attempt by the FARC to raise their political profile. Like his predecessor Alvaro Uribe, Presidente Juan Manuel Santos has taken a hard-line stance towards prisoner exchanges, and by releasing five hostages the FARC probably intend to make him look uncompromising. 

And as indicated by the spike in guerrilla attacks across Colombia last month, the FARC are increasingly reliant on smaller, more mobile units. From a logistics side, this makes it difficult for the Fronts to support a large number of hostages. Keeping the hostages in encampments is also increasingly risky for the FARC, as indicated by Operation “Chamaleon” in June, when the Special Forces rescued four police and military officers held captive for over twelve years. 

None of the hostages scheduled for release have been held by the FARC for more than three years. Police major Javier Solorzano was kidnapped June 4, 2007 in Valle del Cauca; Army private Salin Sanmiguel was taken May 23, 2008, after a FARC ambush in Tolima. Marine infantryman Henry Lopez Martinez was also taken hostage after an ambush in Caqueta on May 23, 2010. A member of the Guaviare municipal council, Marcos Vaquero, was kidnapped June 2009, while Councilman Armando Acuña was taken captive after the FARC stormed the government building in Garzon, Huila, on May 29, 2009.

The FARC are currently believed to hold 20 members of the security forces and two council members hostage. 

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